“Purchase of Slaughter Pen Farm is Complete” – TTG

After 16-year campaign, nonprofit declares victory at Spotsylvania’s Slaughter Pen Farm

The battlefield as it appeared in 1933


Sixteen years after it began, the American Battlefield Trust has completed the largest private battlefield-preservation effort in the nation’s history. The nonprofit announced Monday it has made the final payment toward the $12 million purchase of Slaughter Pen Farm in Spotsylvania County, just south of Fredericksburg.

“When we began this journey, the goal was beyond audacious,” Trust President David Duncan said in a statement. “It was orders of magnitude beyond anything we had attempted, but the unparalleled historic significance of this land demanded that we stretch beyond what had then been considered possible. This is a milestone moment in the historic preservation movement.”

The Battle of Fredericksburg is best known for the doomed Union attacks on Marye’s Heights downtown, as thousands of visitors to the city’s National Park Service sites along Sunken Road would attest. But the fight was decided farther south, as Union troops confronted Confederate commander Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s defenses on Prospect Hill. When that Union assault failed on Dec. 13, 1862, soldiers and local residents named the site “the Slaughter Pen Farm.”

The field is critical to understanding the battle, said National Park Service historian Frank O’Reilly, author of “The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock. masterful defense of ”

“The Slaughter Pen is the very heart and soul of the Fredericksburg Battlefield. Without it, nothing makes sense,” O’Reilly wrote in his definitive study. “This is the point where the battle was won and lost.”


Comment: Here’s a bit of local news that shouldn’t be controversial to anyone. It was the lead story in my morning paper. To preserve this expanse of Civil War battlefield in the midst of urbanization and industrialization in this day and age was no small feat. I’ve followed the story since the beginning.

The fighting at The Sunken Road was pure pigheaded brutality. The fighting at Slaughter Pen Farm and Prospect Hill was a proper battle capped, in my opinion, by Jackson’s masterful defense of Prospect Hill in which he preserved his forces from heavy Union artillery fire from the heights across the Rappahanock while conducting a near mobile defense. 

With this battlefield now secured, I can look forward to years of further terrain walks as I grow ever older, preferably replicating the season of the battle rather than in the middle of a hot, humid Virginia summer.


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29 Responses to “Purchase of Slaughter Pen Farm is Complete” – TTG

  1. morongobill says:

    Best news I have heard in a long time. In my younger days I visited the Manassas battlefield
    and hope to visit this one.

    • TTG says:


      The sunken road area is well preserved and was brought back to it’s original appearance a few years back. The Fredericksburg Battlefield Park includes Jackson’s line along the ridge but this whole field really brings the battlefield into perspective.

  2. Jovan P says:

    Beautiful news!

  3. Pat Lang says:


  4. Fourth and Long says:

    Known as the “Crossroads of the Civil War”, four major Civil War battles were fought on Spotsylvania soils including one of the bloodiest of the war, the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, in May 1864. It was during this battle that the clash between the armies of Ulysses S.
    https://www.spotsylvania.va.us › Inf…

  5. powderfinger1 says:

    Not controversial? You underestimate people’s ability to be highly offended at nothing.

    Anyway, the more of our history we can preserve, the better off we will be. The left’s active efforts to destroy and detach us from our history must be stopped.

    • TTG says:


      True. If nothing else, I’m sure there are local developers who are livid that this prime real estate is not being turned into apartment complexes, Starbucks and big box stores.

      Historical preservation is important. Of all the Civil War monuments recently removed, I was and remain saddened by the removal of the Appomattox memorial in Alexandria. That statue did not glorify the Confederacy in any war. If anything, I saw it more as a monument against the horrors of war. It was a monument to fallen comrades expressing only brotherhood and sorrow. But even those emotions are foreign to many. Unfortunately Appomattox was vulnerable to the mob and the Daughters of the Confederacy were wise to remove and safeguard it. I hope it can someday return to a public place.

  6. Pat Lang says:

    TTG I beehive the SPF is on the Fredericksburg battlefield, ot Spotsylvania.

    • TTG says:

      Yes, it is all part of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, including the Fredericksburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania battlefields along with Chatham and Jackson’s death site. Brandy Station and Cedar mountain will remain a state park. We also have the Stafford Civil War park on the site of the Army of the Potomac’s 1863 winter encampment.

  7. Leith says:

    Who were Mansfield and Bernard notated on the headline photo? And what happened at those two sites?

    With all due respect to Pelham, why didn’t Lindsay Walker and his batteries get more praise and distinction? Not just at Fredericksburg, but throughout the War?

    • TTG says:


      I found this on Bernard on the “Emerging Civil War” web site.

      “One of the more overlooked spots on the Fredericksburg National Battlefield is the Bernard Slave Cabins. This area was the homestead of a number of enslaved African-Americans and a focal point of the fighting that took place near Prospect Hill and the Slaughter Pen Farm. Today the site is accessible via the Bernard Cabins Trail.”

      And this on Mannsfield on the Mysteries & Conundrums web site.

      “Mannsfield is today most famous as the site where Union general George Dashiel Bayard was killed at the battle of Fredericksburg–he was mortally wounded in he front yard and died just four days before what was to have been his wedding day. But, in fact, Mannsfield was probably the most impressive antebellum plantation in the Fredericksburg region, and one of the oldest, too.”

      For Pelham, he was young and dashing and had the (mis)fortune of dying young. He became a ready made symbol of the best of the Confederacy.

      • JK/AR says:


        We apparently cross-posted as I was doing my “search up” for Leith – at least this your comment wasn’t posted when I initiated. I did see it after mine below was submitted to moderation.

        Something I find curious in your offering: This area was the homestead of a number of enslaved African-Americans … .”

        You have a link to that source – I’d like to study some on the ‘when/whys’ of the usage “homestead” was employed. I’ve never run across that before from ‘that side of the river’ especially that far over the river.

        It’s not unknown incidentally to’ve been used on this side of the river for instance, a Jacob Wolf of the town my Mother was bred and borned in deeded a site – prewar – to his ‘manservant?’ upon the fellow’s getting married. “For a homestead” is what Mr. Wolf entered onto the deed. I’ve seen such other usages some few times but as I say – only on this side of the Mississippi.

        Lemme see:


        (Mom entertained us kids, me & sisters, w/stories of how she & siblings & friends “used to play there” and in fact when I was just a wee boy, Mom let out a “Watch for snakes!” when I went in the house roundabouts 1963 or so.)

        • TTG says:


          I was glad to see your interest. I also thought that reference to a homestead for the enslaved was an odd way of putting it. This, from the “Emerging Civil War” site explains it. It was using the term homestead in a very loose way.

          “The NMPS tabletop marker that was erected on the site states: “On this knoll stood Bernard’s Cabins, a small community that in 1860 was home to about three dozen slaves. The complex consisted of three two-room cabins, a stone-lined well, and perhaps two additional buildings. This was only one of several such clusters of slave housing scattered across the 1,800-acre ‘Mannsfield’ estate. The men and women who lived here helped power the most prosperous plantation in the Fredericksburg area. Arthur Bernard’s plantation house, ‘Mannsfield’ (1766), stood about a mile east of here (it burned in 1863). During the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg it served as headquarters for three top Union generals – W.B. Franklin, J.F. Reynolds, and W.F. Smith.”


      • Stephanie says:

        TTG and Leith,

        As you may know, J.E.B. Stuart regarded Pelham as irreplaceable and said so.

        Although at the time of his death he was apparently engaged to a Miss Sallie Dandridge, I have read, probably in Foote, that several young ladies went into mourning for him.

        Thank you for posting this good news, TTG. It’s wonderful what dedicated people can accomplish in the face of powerful commercial interests.

    • JK/AR says:

      Perhaps Leith but only just, perhaps:


      Now if you’ve curiousness where the Trans-Mississippi Theater is concerned I may be more useful.

  8. Leith says:

    TTG – Thanks.

    JK – I still have a dog-eared copy in the bookcase of Alvin Josephy’s The Civil War in the American West. A good read. What about them unfortunate Texas Lancers at Glorieta in the Sangre de Cristo mountains? Did they get that idea of using a lance from the Comanche or from Santa Ana?

    In your neck of the woods there were a number of battles. Do you live anywhere near Pea Ridge or Prairie Grove? Or some others, I can’t recollect the names, getting old I guess?

    • JK/AR says:

      Leith (TTG, you being a amateur “in the old sense” – of warfare),

      “Did they get that idea of using a lance from the Comanche or from Santa Ana?”

      Whether either of you noted on an earlier comment of mine on this the Colonel’s site my saying (can’t recall what post other than it having to do with ‘buffalo [meat] something or other’) I was once “married to a Osage gal”? That she and I’d split but, nonetheless my “ties” with the greater part remain intact?

      Something like that anyway. Calm, getting to that ‘whether the Comanche or’.

      My best guess is SanTana. … Some bit of historical esoterica is that the Osage in some few ‘near Louisiana Purchase’ records were called “The Giants of the Plains” – meaning stature-wise in comparison to the scrawny Comanche etc, the Osage were to borrow modern expression “big ol’ boys” – hmmm lemme see:

      “Leaving St. Louis and rolling west, settlers were likely to encounter a terrifying sight, an ‘Indian’ standing nearly seven feet tall, bare-chested, with face and body paint that invoked shivers of fear. It was likely that while still in Missouri you had encountered a member of the Osage Tribe.”


      Hmm. I’m concerned I could go very long. I prefer only doing so for my children and theirs. This is a blog after all and not my blog.

      A branch of Mom’s family got a Spanish land grant so that side’s been here the longest:

      “The earliest titles grew out of Spanish grants given to early settlers in the eastern part of the state prior to the Louisiana Purchase. … [S]cientist and planter William Dunbar [Danced with Buffalo? jk] and physician George Hunter led a party of soldiers … The danger of attack by the Osage on the Arkansas River led Hunter and Dunbar to undertake a much shorter journey, which nonetheless provided Congress with its first scientific report on Louisiana.”


      At any rate where I am was, Osage hunting grounds until *relatively *recently.

      Then, Gen’rul Stand [Watie] sent his bands [among other separate & distinct guerrillas] into The Ozarks at which point and for some time beyond “the niceties” went extinct. For and to everybody concerned.

      (And *everybody else wonders to this day, “Why, the gun culture”!)

      ‘Pea Ridge’ Leith?

      An hour’s drive away.

      ‘Prairie Grove’?

      That’s where I lived when I was – I suppose a official ‘Razorback’ – and which family who could point to, so they said – and to this day – say what their Granpa, especially when he was near to dying said

      “That’s where the hogs ate my little brother.”

      • TTG says:


        I agree the Texas Lancers probably were inspired by Santa Anna’s lancers who got them from Spain who got them from France. France picked them up from Poland, and Lithuania who got them from the Tatars. My great uncle was an officer in the 2nd Uhlan Regiment during the inter-war years. They carried lances, although they normally used their Mosin-Nagant carbines in actual combat.

        • JK/AR says:

          Makes sense TTG. European warfare an’ all. That it was SanTana gave the example.

          The Osage, I’m given to understand – pre-firearms – “herded” buffs into oh, ‘blind alleys’ [hollers] and then arrow bushwhacked the prey from above. Northern third of Arkansas, extreme northeast Oklahoma, extreme south southeast Kansas across to about 100 miles from Missouri’s bootheel [New Madrid] Then that third to Arkansas’ Black River (east of which became delta) afforded such terrain.

          “Lancing a buffalo” seems to me wouldn’t be a good advertisement to attract the future Obamacare secondary insurance providers who were to follow in the following century (then again – see the Colonel’s current post. These guys are on the government dime – that I like to think of as “my money” which, the paradigm is apparently “By the end of the fiscal year folks, all this – lowercase – ‘god’ has blest us with must be gone!”)

          – ‘Family Lore has it ‘the scrawny people’ greatly preferred targets of opportunity [especially pre-horse]. But I can fully appreciate (in all the ways) ‘Tribe/Family Supremacy’ prejudice probably played a part. –

          • TTG says:


            Taking out bison with arrows and spears doesn’t surprise me at all. Look at all the walrus, whales, bears and mammoths that were taken out with similar hunting weapons. All that without a single ugly, black plastic “assault rifle” in sight. Reminds me of the pig hunters on Oahu. They’d hunt boar and pig in the mountain jungle with a couple of dogs and a big knife. That’s it. These guys were also the pakalolo growers who hid their booby trapped patches in the same jungle my Recondo school ran our training in. Had to have an unofficial late night meeting between my instructors and the pig hunters to come to an agreement that we’d leave their pakalolo alone and they would advise us of the location of all booby traps. Sealed the deal with beer and pig. We got along well.

          • JK/AR says:

            Heh heh heh boy howdy TTG, or, as the kids say nowadays LOL!

            “Sealed the deal with beer and pig.”

            You sure they weren’t “Samoans”?

          • TTG says:


            I’m sure there were Samoans and Tongans among them. I had a Samoan sergeant in my rifle platoon. He was built like a tank and was a wizard with a 90mm recoiless rifle. On a 30 day deployment to the Big Island, I watched one night as he crept up to a big pig with a knife, jumped it, killed it before it could let out half a squeal. Our company mess team prepared it the next day and we ate good.

        • mn says:

          TTG – Some recent DNR conscripts were issued Mosin-Nagants from what I hear. Are they running out of AKs? Anyway I hope they didn’t stick those poor SOBs with broke down 1891 versions left over from the Russo-Japanese War. My gun-nut brother-in-law says those models if in good shape are highly priced collectibles.

          JK – Sorry to hear about your Granpa’s little brother. My great-uncle Beverick had a gash on his calf damn near from ankle to knee where an angry sow got him when he was snatching up her little ones.

          Were you a Razorback when Lou Holz was coaching there?

          BTW I served in the Corps with a Navaho who was well over six feet. He had played B-Ball for the UNM Lobos and could dunk like Mike.

          Getting back on track with the theme of this post: I would hope the American Battlefield trust is maintaining the trans-Mississippi battlefields just as good as they are maintaining the ones in VA. Also I note Stand Watie was the last Confederate General to surrender. Josephy’s book says he waged guerilla warfare up and down the Arkansas River until late June 65.

          • leith says:

            That was me, sorry for the mix-up.

          • TTG says:


            There are plenty of reports and plenty of photos of DNR/LNR militia with Mosin-Nagants. I’m sure they’re no older than WWII vintage. Actually for recruits shanghaied off the street and given no training, the Mosin Nagant is not a bad choice. It’s a solid, idiot proof rifle that enforces fire discipline.

          • JK/AR says:


            I wasn’t clear. I’d like to blame the fact on my high school typing teacher – but I can’t. Or I’d like to blame it on my arthritis but I can’t do that either. All I can blame it on is me – not proofreading.

            At the time I was Razorbacking I stayed with a family my Dad met when Dad was based at Twentynine Palms. (Dad was Navy tho’ an MD.) After his med school days he had to serve some time on active – GI Bill – First to Great Lakes then, because of me getting “three episodes of pneumonia” he requested a transfer to “a drier climate … request Miramar” – I reckon his CO figured the Mojave to be a better fit.

            There were three families of which, when the Dads all retired – within, if I remember correctly, about a eight month’s period – we all packed up and “caravaned” from CA to first Dallas where USMC Colonel Pete and his dropped off. Then in Prairie Grove USMC Captain [“Uncle”] Bill and his dropped off. The K clan going on to nearabouts the mid-point east to west of extreme north Arkansas. Roots were all restored in the respective places for all concerned. “The [fairly] newly arrived on the planet” – among whom was me – being newly “christened” either Texans but, more Arkies.

            And the adventures proceeded from there.

            It was Uncle Bill’s Grandpa’s brother the hogs got on. His’ns forebearers I reckon probably got on pretty good with Gen’rul Stand.

            Hereabouts – Gen’rul Stand weren’t a’tall popular. I’d say some of what my Great Grandpa had to say but I reckon Colonel Lang wouldn’t have it. Great Grandma’s words’ll have to do, “He was one mighty sinful man! A bushwhacker of the most evil sort.”

            (I learned later the Osage didn’t have any kind words for him either. Watie that is. Matter of fact it was when I related some of Grandma’s stories to ‘the Osage gal’s Grandma’ that was the moment I started to “fit right in.”)

            The battlefields, those two at any rate, are as they put it – “in tolerably well good shape” which is to say, surprisingly good condition. I think owing to the general area not being – until roundabouts a hunnert years later – “welcoming in the greater public’s imagination.” (But then, that hundred years later is when ‘retirement communities’ began to sprout up. The Arkansas of my youth is pert near, gone.)

            Lou Holtz (sp?) was later – at my first time it was a feller name of Frank Broyles.

            Over & out!

          • leith says:

            JK – Your deadpan comic writing style reminds me of the late great Southern novelist Charles Portis. He was a Razorback also, attended on the GI Bill after serving as a Gyrene in the Korean War. I’ve read most of his books except the one that is something something Atlantis. Can’t find it up here and refuse to send a nickel to Amazon.

            Your Great Grandma was right about Stand Watie. It was him and his mixed crew that started the Little Civil War in Indian Territory against those Cherokee, Cree, and Seminole that wanted to side with the Union. He helped the Texans chase Opothleyahola and his 9000 loyalists up ”The Trail of Blood on Ice” to Kansas in the winter of 61-62. 2000 died on the way due to exposure, thousands more died of disease and starvation after arrival as the Union did not have enough to feed them and the thousands of other Indian refugees from Oklahoma. And I believe it was Watie’s men that scalped, tomahawked, and mutilated wounded Iowans and Missourians at Pea Ridge.

            Sorry about the ‘mn’ sign off. I blame that and also my mis-spelling of Coach Lou on too much caffeine. Hope any Fighting Irish fans forgive me.

          • JK/AR says:

            Curious Leith your mentioning Mr. Portis.

            Never met the man myself but I was acquainted with a friend of his – “a right good friend” as is sometimes used to describe such a friendship. I was given the opportunity but there was a scheduling conflict.

            Ain’t gonna be able to connect you to the “exact” blogpost that’s got this excerpt a’cause of that ‘obscurity thang’ I mentioned to Al earlier but with that said:

            “He is a former marine, drafted in 1952 and was inducted in Little Rock along with seven other draftees and one volunteer and marine regular, a youngster named Charles Portis who was the man in charge during the boozy three-day train ride to the marine base in San Diego and who later wrote the great classic True Grit and other fine novels.”

            “Tuck now lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas with his wife of sixty-one years. They have three daughters and many grandchildren.”

            But here’s a post which don’t have me commenting onit:


            Fellow what writes that blog’s a few years younger than myself but we hail from the same place – ceptin’ I was born nearer to where Gunny One Shot was borned. Maybe even in the same danged building. Carlos that is not Jeff. So far as precisely ‘hailing from the same place’ mainly meaning we attended the same schools buildings. We did both go to Korea originally “about” the same timeframe except I left and Jeff stayed.

            Tuck and Charles going to and coming from Korea before me and Jeff ever considered it. Actually now I think onit, the mentioned former two was breathing air before us latter two were even considered by our prospective parents.

            Gots to tell you something Leith. I’ve broke a longstanding habit making this comment – When I’ve put ‘Over & Out’ on something that has always before “fenced myself out” so to speak.

            Oh well.

            Now my mentioning Tuck and Jeff’s blog excerpt mentioning Tuck lives – or did – live in Jonesboro that brings to mind another ‘Arkie Episode’ you might get some enjoyment from so here goes:

            (Well. One disclaimer before I paste the link – Jonesboro ain’t in the hills so, properly speaking those folks weren’t and ain’t hillbillies – for instance I doubt any of those concerned at the time shouted “Hold my beer!” before setting sail like we actual hillbillys is wont to do)


            Now then. Over & Out!

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